Maybe you’re an employee or a freelance writer assigned to write a company policy manual. Your employer says, “This is so confusing I don’t understand my own policies!”
Or you’re a multi-published author with a new book out. A major reviewer writes, “Don’t waste your money or your time on this disappointing effort.”
Or you’re an aspiring author trying to get your first novel published. The agent you’re sure is ideal to represent you returns your query letter with “NO” rubber-stamped across the top.
Or you’re a blogger working hard to deliver valuable content and build a community. Another blogger you respect advises you to “either learn how to connect with your readers or give up blogging.”
We’ve all felt the bitter sting of rejection. Someone who is supposed to be an excellent judge of beauty has said, “Your baby (manual, book, proposal, blog …) is ugly!”
How can you turn a negative rejection into a positive experience?
1. Allow yourself to feel disappointment, frustration, anger, resentment … whatever your initial reaction. Tell your cat or your spouse that so-called boss/reviewer/agent/blogger … whatever doesn’t know what s/he is talking about. Call them all the names you want to, but only to yourself, your pet, your spouse, or trusted friend. Don’t respond directly or vent to others about the rejection.
2. Inspire, motivate, encourage yourself. Watch inspirational videos such as The Race Movie and I Am With You Always. Read the Bible or an encouraging book, such as Hope Rising: Stories from the Ranch of Rescued Dreams or Get Out of That Pit: Straight Talk about God’s Deliverance. Take a walk or enjoy a favorite hobby. Spend time doing something you love with people you love.
3. Realize that writing, critiquing, and rejection are subjective. One agent didn’t like your query letter, but the next agent you query may be excited about it. A scathing review can be offset by a complimentary one. Read Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews & Rejections or samples of rotten rejections to see rejections for books that were later published and went on to become classics.
I remember the first time I sent my baby, my first novel Stroke of Luck, out into the world. I submitted the first chapter to a contest and received three critiques. The first judge questioned how I could even think my story was a romance. The opening scene was in a hospital, the main character was handicapped, and it was altogether too depressing for anyone to want to read. The second judge said the story was not believable because the heroine was far too upbeat and positive for what she had gone through. She should be depressed, and there certainly shouldn’t be any humor in a story about such a tragic situation. The third judge informed me that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Her uncle had a stroke, and it wasn’t anything like I described, so I couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to have a stroke. Stroke of Luck is fiction, but the heroine’s stroke experiences and attitude are autobiographical. Yet contest judges were convinced the story wasn’t credible.
4. Evaluate the rejection to determine if there is useful information that can help you improve. If you’re talking to your employer about a policy manual, you can ask for more explanation about what’s wrong with the manual. You can’t get any more information from an agent who rubber-stamps “NO” on your query letter, but you can study Query Letters That Worked!: Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments and learn more about writing query letters. Look for a grain of truth in the criticism you receive, and if you find it, work to write better in the future.
5. Move forward. Make the revisions in the manual. Send the book to other reviewers who may be more positive. Query another agent or publisher. Write your next blog post. Don’t let rejection stop you.
We aren’t defined by rejection but by how we respond to rejection. All of us will hear “Your baby is ugly!” at some time, but we only fail if we start to believe it.
Every “No” Is Just One Step Closer to a “Yes”